Walking with Purpose: Success Beyond Goals and Metrics

It was the early 1960s, and schools in Florida had not yet integrated. My wife and her friends would gather in the morning to walk a mile to the school bus stop. Minnie, her mother, would occasionally send them off saying, “Walk with a purpose.” This was more than a caution; it was a directive which meant “Don’t get distracted, don’t meander, don’t deviate or delay, hurry to the bus stop and above all, get your education.”

“Walk with a purpose” would become a motivating force that would drive my wife to become the first college graduate in her family and would drive our children toward a college education. You see “walking with purpose” doesn’t mean you have to achieve a certain status to declare success, nor does it mean that you have to make a lot of money. Walking with a purpose isn’t about success, it’s about commitment.

Goals = Success?

This may differ from the “conventional wisdom” of what constitutes success, and you might be right. In fact, it may not surprise you to find out that many business professionals, experts, life coaches, and psychologists say that the difference between success and failure is having clearly defined goals. They believe that having clearly defined goals, especially written goals, helps establish accountability and permits us to measure progress toward achieving these goals.  

Now, I don’t doubt that having clearly defined goals is important, or even that they contribute to accountability and measuring goal accomplishment. However, I think that the problem with this view is that goals are subject to change. If you don’t like the metrics, the goals or even the mission, you can change it.

True purpose, on the other hand, is a part of our DNA. It is defined, established and embedded in us by God. “It is God himself who has made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus; and long ages ago he planned that we should spend these lives in helping others.” (Ephesians 2:10, TLB)

In leadership, the most important role of the leader isn’t to communicate goals, but to communicate purpose. Authors James Kouzes and Barry Posner say, “There’s nothing more demoralizing than a leader who can’t clearly articulate why we’re doing what we’re doing.”

Purpose vs. Intention

It is important to make a distinction between “purpose” and “intention”, which are often used interchangeably.  While their meanings may overlap, especially as they are used in their verb forms, I believe they are different.

“Purpose” is the reason that we do something. It is  “why” something exists; the reason something was created. In short, it’s the essence. It is because of purpose—something greater than ourselves—that we are willing to sacrifice. Purpose is the fuel that drives our passion in the Lead Like Jesus model, because purpose is embedded in our “hearts.”

However, intention is largely defined as a mental construct, something that originates in the mind, such as setting a goal. Intentions reside in our “head.”

Purposeful Alignment: Heart, Head, Hands, Habits

“Heart” and “head” are the first two domains in the Lead Like Jesus philosophy. It is critical that these two domains be in alignment for us to successfully model the leadership principles of Jesus.

Jesus made sure that His purpose and intentions were clearly communicated and reinforced. Notice how He declares both throughout Scripture:

For the Son of Man came not to be cared for. He came to care for others. He came to give His life so that many could be bought by His blood and made free from the punishment of sin.” (Matthew 20:28, NLV)

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45, NIV)

But leaders are called not just to communicate purpose, they must also model the behaviors expected of the members of the organization, family or church. As leaders, it is our responsibility to model and implement the “hands” and “habits” domains of the Lead Like Jesus philosophy. (In the LLJ philosophy, “hands” refer to leadership behaviors that involve adjusting one’s leadership style to the development level of one’s followers. “Habits” are the spiritual disciplines that Jesus practiced, including solitude, applying Scripture prayer, accepting unconditional love, support and accountability. – ed.) From the leader’s example, each member of the organization should be able to verbally express the mission, and more importantly, their behaviors should demonstrate the mission statement in action.

Bible.org explains it like this: “Because of the power of our example, and the way one’s life either negatively or positively influences others, the Scripture repeatedly addresses this vital responsibility. Leaders and Christians, as a whole, are to be models for others to imitate. In truth, every believer’s life is to become a source of motivation and direction for others.”

The successful implementation of the Lead Like Jesus philosophy requires purpose; it requires commitment to align the “heart”, “head”, “hands” and “habits” if we are to achieve success in any areas of our lives.

For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.” (1 Peter 2:21, NLT)

I can assure you that it may not be easy, and there will be challenges but when you are “walking with a purpose. “  But when it’s a God-given purpose and not an ego-driven purpose, you can’t be denied or defeated.

As Romans 8:31 says, “In view of all this, what can we say? If God is for us, who can be against us?”

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